Transparency International (TI), the leading international non-governmental organisation devoted exclusively to fighting corruption worldwide welcomes the 21-nation Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders' Statement on fighting corruption and implementing Transparency Standards. TI is also encouraged by the commitment by APEC leaders to implement comprehensive "area-specific" Transparency Standards into domestic law for customs and other important trade and investment related-areas. TI notes that transparency standards are essential if trade and investment are to be conducted in ways that provide the best outcome for citizens of APEC countries.
It is estimated that systemic corruption can add up to 25% to the costs of government procurement. This results in inferior infrastructure and entrenches developing countries in poverty, where basic needs are not met.
"While we are disappointed that standards for transparency in public procurement will not be completed until 2004, TI welcomes the commitment by APEC leaders to implement those standards into domestic law by January 2005," says David Nussbaum, Managing Director of Transparency International. "This commitment will help the APEC region to initiate progress on transparency in procurement at the World Trade Organisation. The breakdown at the WTO Cancún Ministerial Meeting last month was a lost opportunity to move towards shared transparency standards. If corruption in procurement is not contained, poverty will grow," said Nussbaum.
This commitment and the ambitious objective of completing work by January 2005 can contribute substantially to making government more accountable and to reducing opportunities for corruption. However, this commitment must be followed by prompt action. Leaders must demonstrate the political will to overcome vested interests and capacity concerns.
TI applauds the Asia-Pacific leaders call on WTO members to "re-energise" the WTO negotiating process and supports further talks on a multilateral framework agreement on Transparency in Public Procurement (TGP), with the objective of developing a work programme for negotiations by December 15, 2003. The issue of transparency in public procurement was held hostage to other issues in Cancún. An agreement should be negotiated on its merits. For less developed and developed countries, it is in their own interests to introduce transparency measures in public procurement, because the waste of their own scarce resources is at stake.
Full details are available on the APEC website: http://www.apecsec.org.sg/apec.html.
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